The end of one month and the beginning of another isn't exactly big financial news. The transition from one calendar quarter to the next isn't all that noteworthy, either. What may be the market's most interesting news story right now is the potential for some relative weakness in growth stocks right now, prompting some overdue strong performance among several value stocks.
But even if such a rotation in investor interest isn't in the cards, value never really goes out of style for a certain class of patient investors.
If you are one of those investors looking to rotate into value stocks in April and need some bargain suggestions, Kroger (NYSE:KR), International Paper (NYSE:IP), and Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) currently rank as three of the stock market's top values. Here's a closer look.
Trailing P/E: 11.6
Forward-looking P/E: 13.8
There's no denying the country's biggest pure-play grocer enjoyed a 2020 that won't be repeated in 2021. The pandemic that kept people stuck at home for the better part of the past several months prompted a 14% improvement in grocery sales for the fiscal year ending in January. Operating profits grew 23% for the fiscal year. Now the company's calling for its top line to decrease to the tune of 4% in 2021, matched by an even bigger projected decline in earnings. The world just doesn't need stay-at-home solutions like it did last year now that vaccines are curbing the coronavirus pandemic.
Largely being overlooked, however, is the fact that Kroger is exiting the pandemic stronger than it entered it.
Much of this new strength is on the e-commerce front. The grocer learned a lot about online shopping, curbside pickup, and even deliveries in 2020. For instance, management realized greater digital sales also means an opportunity to personalize each online customer's experience. And, as my fellow Motley Fool Demitri Kalogeropoulos points out, the company is now sitting on nearly $1.7 billion worth of liquidity -- up by about $1.3 billion year over year -- providing Kroger with the means to pursue investment opportunities ranging from acquisitions to new technology to more-novel concepts like ghost kitchens and meal kits.
Analysts may be underestimating just how much the grocery retailer will be able to do this year, and grossly underestimating 2022's potential once the pandemic's dust has fully settled.
2. International Paper
Trailing P/E: 44.7
Forward-looking P/E: 15.1
The paper and packaging business makes the grocery business look downright riveting. But that doesn't mean paper stocks don't make for good investments. Indeed, for income-minded value investors, International Paper is a particularly compelling prospect.
Contrary to the predictions going back at least 25 years now, the advent of personal computers and the internet didn't result in a paperless society. If anything, these technologies only expanded the world's capacity to print more things and/or use more paper products. Following a slight consumption lull in 2018, the IEA estimates worldwide demand for paper and paperboard will actually grow through 2030, reaching and then surpassing record levels well before the end of that time frame. And the IEA's outlook may be conservative in light of the still-rapid growth of online shopping. The website Digital Commerce 360 estimates that only about 21% of the United States' retailing is done online, which leaves tremendous room for greater cardboard box use.
The point being, International Paper isn't worried about a lack of demand anytime soon.
Where this company really stands out as a value stock, however, is on the dividend front. The yield of 3.8% is above average, and while the company didn't raise its dividend in October as it had for the previous 10 years, consider the circumstances: We are still in the midst of a global pandemic and the uncertainty it brings.
Granted, the future of IP's dividend remains in question, with the company working toward a spinoff of its printing-paper unit. The spun-off company will pay a dividend to the former parent, though, and the split itself allows each business to focus on its own profitability. Given its dividend history, International Paper could resume its regular payout increases soon.
3. Goldman Sachs
Trailing P/E: 13.2
Forward-looking P/E: 11.1
Finally, add banking powerhouse Goldman Sachs to your list of value stocks to buy in April.
The Goldman name doesn't turn heads like it used to. In its heyday, the big investment bank was the company all young bankers wanted to work for, and it was the underwriter that companies ready to go public wanted to tap. While its foray into conventional consumer banking back in 2016 was a creative growth idea, it may have also been a tacit admission that it faces stiffer competition in markets it previously dominated.
What the company's lost in stature, however, it's more than made up for in other ways. For example, its revenue mix is now more evenly divided among businesses like asset management, investment banking, and trading. No single division accounts for more than 25% of its sales, and none accounts for less than 15%. This diversity doesn't guarantee continual earnings growth, but it makes it considerably more likely, and it's definitely smoothed out what might have otherwise been volatile swings in profitability.
Shareholders can look for more forays into new businesses, too, as the lines that divide bigger-ticket banking services from consumer and retail-oriented ones continue to blur. Goldman is exploring transaction banking and banking-as-a-service as growth opportunities, for example, and all the fintech needed to go with them. Such moves were unthinkable a decade ago, but they're arguably must-do moves to make now.